There are five species of sea turtles that nest from May through August on Florida beaches, with hatching stretching out until October.

The loggerhead, green turtle and the leatherback all nest regularly in the Panhandle, with the loggerhead being the most frequent visitor. Two other species, the hawksbill and Kemp’s Ridley, nest infrequently.

All five species are threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Due to that status, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission/Fish and Wildlife Research Institute monitors sea turtle nesting activity on an annual basis.

Annual total nest counts for loggerhead sea turtles on Florida’s index beaches fluctuate widely and scientists do not yet understand fully what drives these changes.

From 2011 to 2018, an average of 106,625 sea turtle nests (all species combined) were recorded annually on these monitored beaches. In 2018, there was a slight decrease, with only 96,945 nests recorded statewide. This is not a true reflection of all of the sea turtle nests each year in Florida, as it doesn’t cover every beach, but it gives a good indication of nesting trends and distribution of species.

To learn more about turtles and possibly watch a female loggerhead turtle nest on the beach, join a permitted public turtle watch, set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays from June through October. They include an orientation. Email ECTurtleWatch@gmail.com for more information or to sign up. An event page is at facebook.com/FloridasEmeraldCoast.

To see a sea turtle in the Florida Panhandle, visit one of the state-permitted captive sea turtle facilities listed below. Admission fees may be charged. Call the number listed for more information.


Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory, 222 Clark Drive, Panacea; 850-984-5297.
Gulf World Marine Park, 15412 Front Beach Road, Panama City; 850-234-5271.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, 1010 Miracle Strip Parkway SE, Fort Walton Beach; 850-243-9046 or 800-247-8575.
Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Center, 8740 Gulf Blvd., Navarre; 850-499-6774.

Laura Tiu is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.